Arrest of the Daily News Director

FIDH/ZimRights

27/10/2003
Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and ZimRights, its affiliate organization in Zimbabwe, vigorously condemn the arrest of Mr. Washington Sansole, Director of the independent newspaper the Daily News.

The Daily News was closed on 12 September, following a court ruling which stated that the newspaper was operating « illegally » and ordered the Daily News to comply with the provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which was adopted on March 2002. The FIDH and ZimRights condemned this decision, which contravenes freedom of expression.

On 19 September, the Media and Information Commission (MIC) denied the granting of a valid licence to the newspaper. The Daily News appealed this decision before the Harare Administrative Court, and the hearings were held between 16 and 19 October. On 24 October, the Administrative Court ruled that the Daily News should be granted a certificate of registration before 30 November 2003, as the MIC was « improperly constituted in terms of law and was accordingly unable to lawfully make the decision it made ».

On 25 October, a short edition of the Daily News was published, and few hours later, armed police forces took control of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe offices and arrested 18 journalists and other workers, who were later released without charge. On 26 October, Mr Washington Sansole, one of the nine directors of the Daily News, was arrested in Bulawayo for allegedly ignoring the Administrative Court ruling and giving a directive to publish without a licence, under the provisions of the AIPPA.

The FIDH and ZimRights are extremely concerned about the serious deterioration of the freedom of expression in Zimbabwe and recall that this arrest intervenes in the context of several waves of arrests of trade unionists, human rights activists and opposition representatives in October .

The FIDH and ZimRights urge the Zimbabwean authorities to release Mr Sansole and remove all charges against him, as this arrest contravenes freedom of expression, guaranteed notably by Article 9 of the African Charter and Human and People’s Rights and Article 19(2) of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which provides that « Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice », and is therefore arbitrary.

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